K-Drama fans were excited to hear the news on July 3 that Lee Joo Young is in talks to lead the upcoming OCN drama Times alongside Lee Seo Jin—and it’s no surprise why. After all, she’s shown her immense talent and versatility through so many different roles over the years. From her role as an athlete to her role as a trans woman, here are six times Lee Joo Young proved she’s an actress to watch this year.
1. Game Development Girls
One of Lee Joo Young’s earlier roles in 2016 was on the web series Game Development Girls, also known as Women At A Game Company.
Lee played bright game developer Kim Pudding, and one of viewers’ favorite parts about her role was her repartee with Red Velvet’s Irene on screen.
2. Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
MBC’s coming-of-age sports drama Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo captured a cult following back in 2016. The story of a group of college athletes striving for their their dreams while finding love resonated with so many young people, as did Lee Joo Young’s supporting character.
Lee played Lee Seon Ok, a member of the weightlifting team. Her love for food, bluntness, and difficulty showing affection were so relatable, it’s no wonder viewers were enamored despite her small role.
3. Something in the Rain
JTBC’s Something in the Rain attracted attention in 2018 as Son Yejin’s long-awaited television comeback, but she wasn’t the only one who gave a great performance.
Lee Joo Young played the female lead’s coworker, an innocent and bubbly girl named Lee Ye Eun. Alongside giving a great performance, Lee turned heads with her unusual look. Usually known for her short haircuts and androgynous style, this time she played a character with a more traditionally feminine look.
Alongside major broadcasts, Lee Joo Young has shown off her acting skills in independent movies too. Once such movie was the 2019 film Maggie.
Lee took on the lead role of Yeo Yoon Young, a nurse caught in a compromising situation. She was praised for bringing meaning to the almost nonsensical movie, which featured everything from a sexual x-ray to a talking fish.
5. Baseball Girl
Lee Joo Young once again took the lead role in recently released movie Baseball Girl. Just like in Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, she embodied the character’s athleticism perfectly.
The inspirational film was dreamed up when the writer learned that there’s no rules prohibiting women from playing professional baseball. Lee Joo Young does an impeccable job of playing Joo Soo In, a woman determined to become the first professional female baseballer.
6. Itaewon Class
And last but certainly not least, who could forget Lee Joo Young’s work in the critically acclaimed 2020 K-Drama Itaewon Class? The show became the 7th highest-rated drama in Korean history, and eyes were on Lee’s supporting role.
Lee Joo Young played Ma Hyun Yi, a cook in the restaurant opened by the lead character—but there was so much more to her story than that. During the course of the show, Hyun Yi’s identity as a transgender woman was revealed, and Lee Joo Young truly did justice to the character’s tumultuous journey.